The Karnataka government on Monday decided to ask the state CID to probe the murder of rationalist Prof MM Kalburgi, as pro-Hindu organisations alleged a witch-hunt against them.
Hours after chief minister Siddaramaiah made the announcement, the Mangalore rural police arrested a Bajrang Dal leader Bhuvith Shetty who had tweeted that Left ideologue Prof KS Bhagwan was the next target.
In a tweet on Sunday which he later retracted, Shetty said, "Then it was UR Ananthamurthy and now MM Kalburgi. Mock Hinduism and die dogs death. And dear KS Bhagwan you are next (sic)."
Speaking to HT from Mangalore, a senior police officer said, "The arrest was in connection with his tweet but we have already been contacted by our CID counterparts in Bengaluru who want to interrogate him about the larger conspiracy behind the murder of Prof Kalburgi in Dharwad."
Reacting sharply to Shetty's arrest, the Bajrang Dal regional convenor (Andhra, Telangana and Karnataka) Suryanarayana said, "They (Karnataka police) are playing with fire."
Speaking to HT, he said, "The name of the Bajrang Dal is being unnecessarily dragged into this case. The state government is trying to fix our organisation and that's why the case has been handed to the State CID. Why didn't they hand the case to the CBI?"
BJP leaders too were unhappy with reports linking Hindutva outfits to Prof Kalburgi's murder . Party spokesperson S Prakash in fact claimed that Bhuvith Shetty was not a member of the Bajrang Dal even though Shetty claimed he was the co-convenor of the Bantwal unit.
Former law minister S Suresh Kumar said, "Nobody should be blamed before the investigation reaches its conclusion."
The BJP leader compared Kalburgi's murder to the killings of Bangladeshi bloggers Niloy Neel, Washiqur Rahman and Anantha Bijoy Das. But he did not take questions on the murders of other rationalists Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar, who like Prof Kalburgi had major differences with the Sangh Parivar.
Earlier, the remains of Prof Kalburgi were laid to rest according to Veerashaiva traditions at the burial ground near the Dharwad University.
Thousands of students, intellectuals and political leaders reached the tiny city of Dharwad, which is considered the literary and cultural capital of the state, to participate in the public mourning. Demonstrations by progressive groups continued across the state for the second consecutive day.